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10 top tips for project success: plan, plan, then plan again

By 09/12/2015Ten Tops Tips
Plan, plan then plan again

In the digital context, project management is the planning, organizing and motivating of resources and processes to deliver a project. Planning for successful delivery carries a disproportionately important impact on success. Despite the relatively small time investment at the start of a project or phase, the extent to which you’re able to effectively plan – creating a robust approach, documentation, resource planning and briefs will directly impact the project’s ability to be successful. No matter how good you are at executing, without being able to properly plan a project, the project won’t succeed.

Without a doubt, the biggest cause of project failure is that it wasn’t planned properly. There’s really is no substitute for proper planning.  In the wise words of a fellow Ben;

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”  – Benjamin Franklin.

Plan for success

Planning is hard work – when it comes to administrative diligence there really are no short-cuts. A project that’s properly planned will have a clearly defined beginning, end and a very clear understanding of how to get there. Of course, creating a 600 line project plan, with proper dependencies and milestones takes a long time. And detailing out the approach, activities, deliverables, and assumptions can seem very tedious. Having the best plan is just the start though – make sure you clearly document your plan in a statement of work so that there’s a very clear shared understanding of expectations around the project. It’s the clarification and documentation of all the details that can be the difference between failure and success.

Plan for the disasters

The easiest approach is to plan for the best case scenario; that isn’t too taxing. If everything always went to plan imagine how quickly and cheaply we’d be able to deliver projects. But we know things always go wrong. Projects always start late; we don’t get the resources we need; we don’t get the approvals we were hoping for; and clients are predictably unpredictable. In your planning, expect the unexpected and ensure you’ve got a plan to actively mitigate against all the risks you’ve identified so that they don’t become issues. A project that’s planned well will make the client confident in your ability to deliver, help the team deliver and reduce the stress for yourself as a project manager.

Lead into the plan for success

Planning for success is hard. And making sure you’re not just doing the project but you’re leading the team to success is its own separate challenge. Remember this is about leadership – this goes beyond just having a project plan. This is building a vision for success with your team – that’s a collaborative effort between you as the project manager and your team of resources who you need to own the delivery and the plan for success.

Cast vision for your plan. Having a clear vision, and being able to clearly express that vision is a vital component in keeping the project moving forward. Help people get hold of that vision; where are you going – what is your North star? Where are you now? How are you going to get there? How can the team be meaningfully involved?

Be a vision caster

Provide an inspiring vision that’s contagious; share it confidently and talk about it continually, until everyone on the team sees it almost as clearly as you do. Obviously, on your 1000th banner project of the year this is going to be challenging – so how do you do it? You decide it’s going to be the best one ever and that you’re going to have fun doing it; it comes down to attitude and injecting passion into a project; that’s what your team is going to respond to. If you don’t care, they won’t care.

Create momentum

When you cast a clear vision and the team gets behind it, it begins to have a momentum of its own, you give people something to buy into. This is where you shift from just being a project manager to being a project leader – you assume responsibility, catch your team up into it, and drive an agenda for success.

What do you think?

What do you think? How important is planning for success key to ensuring your project success? I’d love to hear if you’ve got any thoughts on ensuring project success in digital project management. Join the conversation below and let us know what you’re thinking!

Ben Aston

About Ben Aston

I’m Ben Aston, a digital project manager and VP of Client Services at FCV, a full service digital agency in Vancouver, Canada. I’ve been in the industry for more than 10 years working in the UK at London’s top digital agencies including Dare, Wunderman, Lowe and DDB. I’ve delivered everything from video virals to CMS’, flash games to banner ads and eCRM to eCommerce sites. I’ve been fortunate enough to work across a wide range of great clients; automotive brands including Land Rover, Volkswagen and Honda; Utility brands including BT, British Gas and Exxon, FMCG brands such as Unilever, and consumer electronics brands including Sony.

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